Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-23)
THE RT HON ANDREW SMITH MP, MR BRIAN GLICKSMAN AND MS LORRAINE CONSTABLE
WEDNESDAY 13 MARCH 2002
20. You mentioned the gate process that the OGC now has in place. I was speaking at an IT conference for public sector IT managers last week. The Chairman of the conference was the editor of a leading computer magazine who said to me that when he talked to senior managers in the Health Service they were at pains to explain to him why, while they welcomed the gate for certain kinds of large Health Service IT projects, it did not really apply to them. I am concerned that the gate process might turn out to be another methodology which is fine on paper, superb on paper, even better than the previous one, but that actually people skirt round.
(Mr Smith) No. Obviously the OGC's remit does not extend to NHS procurement in the same way that it does to central government procurement. The application of the gate procedures and indeed other procurement good practice is being driven very comprehensively through central government and those practices are also now being adopted within the National Health Service as well.
21. Are you saying you confidently predict we will not be looking at any hearings in the future where we are discussing big IT disasters in the Health Service?
(Mr Smith) Of course your hearings in the future might well dwell on projects which started even before the gate processes came on the scene so I could not give that guarantee. What I would guarantee is that if we took a representative selection of projects, across time you would see more and more of them that have been through the gate procedure andthis is the crucial thingwhich have actually been substantially improved through the applications of those principles and practice.
22. I simply want to ask whether, given that the BBC spend about £2.2 billion and the focus of this Committee would be to attempt to make savings of millions of pounds which they could re-invest, it would be helpful for the NAO to provide any sort of briefing paper on the scope of what we would normally want to look at in the BBC. Given the sensitivity is about whether we suddenly start pursuing qualitative issues about what goes on our screens as opposed to business management of the public asset we are talking about would it be helpful to provide that for your deliberations?
(Mr Smith) That is a matter for this Committee to decide.
Geraint Davies: Sir John can get on with it then.
23. Thank you very much for waiting and for all you have achieved. You have been so successful so far with your officials in pursuing our cause that we look to even greater success in the future.
(Mr Smith) Thank you very much; that is very kind of you. Brian Glicksman, the Treasury Officer of Accounts has his name in front of him but Lorraine Constable does not. I should just say how greatly appreciated will be your remarks and those of others about all of the officials who have worked on this.
Chairman: Thank you very much for coming to see us.